Extended hours for the town deer cooler and a lottery to give local veterans the opportunity to hunt on Southold Town and Suffolk County land are among the ways the town’s deer management committee is hoping to encourage deer hunting this season, according to department of public works director Jeff Standish.
Mr. Standish, who has worked with the committee, told the Town Board at Tuesday’s work session that while it’s unlikely a proposal to extend the end of deer season from January 31 to March 31 will pass in time for this year, the town can take steps to encourage more local hunters to help cull the herd.
The growing deer population has been declared a heath crisis by some local officials, who say the animals devastate local ecosystems through rampant grazing and spread tick-borne illnesses like Lyme disease.
Mr. Standish said some members of the deer management committee suggested extending the hours at the town’s cooler from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. during October, when the weather is fairer and hunters can come in later. Mr. Standish said the plan could be tested this year, but would create more overtime for staffers who would have to man the cooler at night.
If hunters don’t use the extended hours, the plan could be shelved for next season, he added.
“If they’re willing to shoot more deer and help us in our cause, it’s worth a try,” Mr. Standish said.
He also suggested setting up a lottery to allow 10 Suffolk County veterans to hunt on county and town lands within the North Fork’s borders. Those extra hunters would get the opportunity to hunt on the 51-acre Downs Farm property, which is being opened up to local hunters this year for the first time.
“It puts more people in the woods that we really need,” Mr. Standish said.
Town Board members called the plan an “excellent idea.”